Homeschooling Your Grandchildren
The last few years have witnessed a meteoric rise in homeschooling across the United States, with over 11% of all school-age children in the United States being homeschooled today (source). This substantial increase has come in the wake of the pandemic, with parents fed up with restrictions and complicated regimens imposed upon them in institutional schools.
With so many families homeschooling, we are also seeing a rise in a relatively new social phenomenon—homeschooling grandparents. As a grandparent of homeschooled children, I’m deeply interested in this topic.
I don’t provide direct instruction to my grandchildren, but do I assist many other grandparents in this endeavor through my work at Homeschool Connections. Therefore, I’d like to explore homeschooling as a grandparent in this article. I will also offer some basic guidelines for those considering homeschooling their grandchildren or assisting their children in homeschooling.
Why Homeschool as a Grandparent?
Why would grandparents homeschool their grandchildren? There are multiple reasons:
To Be Helpful
Parents of young children are busy. Lending a hand in helping your adult child homeschool a few of her children is one way to relieve some of the pressure and keep involved in your grandchildren’s lives. This may include teaching a single subject or taking over homeschooling for a day or two per week.
Your adult child may be a single parent who wishes to homeschool. Homeschooling as a single parent presents a unique set of challenges. A grandparent willing to step in and assist can go a long way. This sometimes looks like the parent providing the overall homeschool plan with the grandparent providing direct instruction and grading.
Parents of Multiples
Parenting twins or triplets is always a handful. Homeschooling them can be even more so, especially when children are very young. The homeschooling of multiples provides an ideal situation for a grandparent to buttress mom’s efforts.
One of the vulnerabilities of homeschooling families is that health issues with parents can throw a wrench into homeschool activities. A grandparent stepping in when mom or dad is sidelined with an illness or medical issue can go a long way toward stabilizing the situation. In this scenario, the grandparent may take on complete authority as the primary educator.
I’ve also seen situations where, for various reasons, children live full-time with their grandparents. In these cases, the grandparents are responsible for all educational decisions and assume full responsibility for homeschooling.
There are many other reasons a grandparent might get involved with homeschooling. When it comes down to it, you don’t need a reason. If you have the desire and your adult children are on board, that’s all the reason you need!
Tips for Homeschooling Grandparents
Now, let’s discuss some practical tips for homeschooling as a grandparent!
Check State Laws
Before you get started, you need to check your state’s homeschooling laws. Some states stipulate that only a parent or legal guardian can homeschool a child. If a child’s homeschooling is delegated to a third party, there may be laws regulating how that third party must proceed. Contact the Homeschool Legal Defense Association for directives about your state and situation.
Start Early in the Day
Even as a young mother, I preferred to start our homeschool day early and tackle the more intensive subjects first. If I didn’t, the day would disappear, and little would be accomplished. I saved fun activities and get-togethers for the afternoon.
As a grandparent, I tend to run out of energy sooner. Generally, this is common among us older folks. Therefore, if you’re homeschooling as a grandparent, it may best to tackle the most critical tasks first. Then, if you run out of steam by early afternoon, you already have the heavy lifting out of the way.
Clarify Authority Structures
Sometimes, overlapping spheres of authority between parents and grandparents can confuse grandchildren and cause conflict between grandparents and adult children. For example, you can have situations where grandparents permit things parents forbid, or grandparents expect different rules of behavior in their homes, or any situation with conflicting messages between parents and grandparents. Hence, children can become confused over who they are supposed to listen to.
This dynamic can be exacerbated when the children’s education is involved, which can be damaging if handled poorly. Before you begin, there must be clarity on authority structures between parents and grandparents. For example, if Grandma teaches a class, is she acting merely as a stand-in for the parent (instructing, grading, and disciplining according to the parent’s instructions)? Or has the parent entirely delegated authority to Grandma to handle those matters as she sees fit?
Clarifying these “jurisdictional” questions can go a long way toward keeping things running smoothly. I recommend a regular sit-down meeting between parents and grandparents to keep everyone updated on the children’s progress and review educational goals.
Don’t Lose Your “Fun” Reputation
Grandparents often have a reputation for being fun, affectionate, and free-wheeling compared to parents. Perhaps you’re worried you won’t have fun with the grandchildren if you homeschool. Or you’re worried that your grandchildren won’t be excited about coming to see you anymore?
Undoubtedly, it is essential to remember that homeschooling does not mean you need to become a rigid disciplinarian. There’s still plenty of time for baking cookies and showering your grandchildren in grandmotherly affection.
For the most part, homeschooling is predicated on the belief that education is not fundamentally distinct from parenting but is a function of parenting. This principle applies to grandparents as well. Turn these educational experiences into bonding moments that build lasting memories and affection between you and your grandchildren. Reading aloud, baking, nature walks, museum visits, etc., are all fun, educational activities you can enjoy alongside your homeschooled grandchildren.
Many of the grandparents I’ve worked with in recent years did not homeschool their own children. They are coming to homeschooling fresh, with little or no experience. If this is your situation, you should seek resources to help you get started. Your experience is essentially going to be that of a new homeschooling parent.
First, look into local support. Do the local homeschool moms meet for Park Day on Fridays or coffee on Saturday mornings? Are there homeschool clubs, co-ops, sports, etc.? If so, consider signing up. I bet the younger moms would love to have you join them!
For further help, we have a collection of Podcasts geared toward helping new homeschoolers get started. This would be an excellent place to start learning. Homeschool Connections also offers many great articles here on the blog. For practical help, we offer various online homeschool classes for 3rd to 12th grade that can ease your workload.
I hope this gives you some things to think over! Next time, we will review the benefits that come with homeschooling grandchildren.